Town Hall Transcript - 12/9/22

Mental Well-being in Insights - December 9, 2022

Transcript Courtesy of Focus Forward & FF Transcription

Moderated By: Melanie Courtright, CEO, Insights Association

Featured presenters: Giulia Prati, Vice President of Research, U.S., Opinium; Harley McKee, Senior Research Analyst, Opinium; Mike Armson, Data Science Associate; Lead Headway Initiative, Sklar Wilton; Vashti Chatman, Global Chief Human Resources Officer, Big Village; Pam Cusick, Senior Vice President, Rare Patient Voice; Dr. Jennifer Card, Founder, EQ@HQ

Melanie Courtright: Hi everyone. We're really, really excited that you're here. Bring up that chat window, bring up your Q&A window, say hello. Tell us where you are. Feel free to put your LinkedIn link in there, make some new connections. If you're not LinkedIn with me, please find me. I would love to be connected to you. We have a very, very full session, so why don't I get the housekeeping out of the way and then we can get started? First, thank you all very much for being here again for our December, our final Town Hall of the year. Can you believe the year's almost over? And as we've gone through the year it seems super appropriate to end with mental well-being in the Insights community. A quick disclaimer, everything that we're going to share with you today is intended to be – is not intended to substitute for any specific advice that you may need with your own advisors. It's not meant to substitute for specific HR, legal, financial advice that you may need. If you are in need of some specific advice for your company scenario, or for even your own personal scenario, and you need help connecting with someone, we hope that you'll reach out to us and let us connect you. But everything that we do here is meant to inspire you, to educate you, and to inform you, but not to substitute for any specific advice that you may need. Also, today's session will be recorded. It'll be made available in our Town Hall library on our website. It'll also be sent to you, and it will be transcribed. Thank you again, thank you very much to our long-time transcription partner Focus Forward. They've been transcribing these for us for awhile now, and they do a fabulous job. We'd love to hear from you. Again, bring up your chat, bring up your Q&A. Bring up those windows. Be really active, if something resonates with you, let us know. If you have a question, we ask you to specifically put those questions into the Q&A pod. They can get buried in the chat window. So put them in the Q&A pod, that little widget allows us to really to handle them separately to mark which ones have been answered, mark which ones are open. We'll have time at the end for questions that you have. We'll save them all for the end, though, so make sure you put them in that Q&A pod so that you don't forget what your questions were. Now I'm just going to introduce our esteemed guests today. As we start our session, we're going to be joined by Giulia Prati, Vice President of Research, U.S., Opinium. She leads the U.S. office out of New York. She started her career – sorry. I've got all my little widgets in the way, and I can't read now – deploying quant and qual research methods to advise clients on marketing. Prior to that, she was Strategy Director at Weber Shandwick. She's joined by her colleague Harley. Harley McKee, Senior Research Analyst at Opinium. They're going to be presenting us the actual findings of the U.S. Wellness Study that was run recently. This data is fresh. He's a passionate member of Opinium's Mental Health and Well-being Research Team. He also helps conduct qual and quant to inform brand comms and development strategies. When they're done, we're going to be joined by Mike Armson of Sklar Wilton, who is a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Toronto. Brings a strong background in mental health research in his role as Headway Lead. He's going to talk to you a little bit about that program. After Mike is done, we're going to have a panel that is going to join us. Our panel is Vashti Chatman, Global Chief HR Officer at Big Village. She's an accomplished teacher, advisor, she's been helping us with our executive leadership summit that we held in Chicago this year. Very experienced in HR recommendations for company policy, building culture. She's going to be able to give us that HR point of view from an agency side. She'll be joined by Pam Cusick – Pam, I hope I said your last name correctly – a Senior Vice President at Rare Patient Voice. Pam is an experienced research professional on study design. Her background of public health comms and research coupled with a passion for patient advocacy are great with their mission and vision. So, some of the work that they do, as well as their own company and mental well-being there. And finally, we're super excited to have Dr. Jennifer Card, Founder of EQ at HQ, join us. Leadership consultant, executive coach, organization development practitioner, author, keynote speaker. She holds a doctorate in Organizational Leadership Psychology, where her research focused in executive leadership development, stress resiliency, and mind well-being, which is super important. As we go through our results today, you'll hear more about that. So those are our speakers. What a great set of guests we have. And with that, I'm going to hand it off to Giulia at Opinium and her colleague Harley, to walk us through the findings.

Giulia Prati: Perfect. Thank you Melanie. We are so delighted to be partnering with the Insights Association for the third year in a row to track mental well-being in the U.S. insights industry. With all the challenges of the past couple of years, addressing mental well-being at work has at times felt like an insurmountable task. But it's a journey and as researchers we believe that tracking the problem is really the first step to tackling it. So we invite you to join us in this journey today using this research to maybe kickstart the conversation in your workplace, and keep taking those small steps towards better mental health in our industry. So we'll dive right in. Opinium's Mental Well-being audit that we deployed here in partnership with the IA, is really based on the premise that we all have mental health. It's something to be managed on an ongoing basis, similar to our regular physical health, through healthy habits. So not just when we face a crisis and as the WHO defines it, mental well-being is – or mental health is a state of well-being where each of us is able to really realize our own potential, cope with the normal stresses of daily life, and work productively towards making a contribution in our communities. Hopefully, something we're all working towards. So diving into our methodology for this year, we heard from 409 Insights professionals as part of a ten-minute online survey across September and October. First off, big huge thank you to everybody who participated as part of the Insights Association community. That was a big jump in participation from last year, which we like to think indicates that people are more comfortable talking about this topic and opening up. So hopefully a great indicator. As you'll see our findings cover a variety of things, from overall mental well-being, to asking about mental health at work, specifically the degree to which people feel supported at work, and demographics to put this all in context. We've structured our presentation today around three key recommendations. First, renewing our efforts to tackle burnout in the insights industry. Of course, deadlines, periods of high workload are not going away. That's part of a productive workplace and part of what we do, but we'll talk through the importance of encouraging recovery time and some healthy habits, and how we can structure things to help improve the impact that that has on us. Second, the role of leaders in improving well-being by example, to help break through some of the stigma around mental well-being that we still see emerging from the data this year. And third, we want to highlight how internal pulse surveys can really help understand the needs of employees and track well-being. Again, as researchers, we believe that tracking and measuring the problem helps us make informed decisions and most effectively tackle this type of challenge, or any challenge. That's something we do ourselves at Opinium. We do pulse surveys on a regular basis, and they really have led to concrete and immediate changes that our leadership has decided upon in policies and hiring strategy, to help address what was bubbling up in those surveys, so it's something we really stand by and have seen the effects of. Diving in, giving a lay of the land of the state of well-being in insights today. Throughout the report here, you'll see that that darker shade indicates the year 2022. So you can use that to compare versus last year in the lighter shade. What we see here is that as an industry, I think we have made important progress in prioritizing the mental well-being of our teams. This year's data really shows that over two-thirds of insights professionals feel they would be supported at work if struggling with their mental health or well-being. That's the 67%, which is up ten percentage points versus last year, which is great to see. Encouragingly, we've also seen similar increases in those who feel they can openly talk with their managers about their mental health, and who report their workplaces have introduced policies and processes to look after employee well-being. All of that is fantastic news and I think, shows that as an industry we're putting our money where our mouth is and putting in the effort to really shift our work cultures, with some signs of success so far. That said, this year's data also continues to show that there is much more work to be done. Over half of insights professionals, at 55%, report feeling exhausted or burnt out this year, well above the U.S. employee benchmark that we have. And we've seen upticks in levels of reported stress, as you see here, and feeling low or down year over year, some of these metrics being quite flat year over year. So one question we've asked ourselves is, where do we go from here? With that, I will hand things over to Harley for our first recommendation.

Harley McKee: Thanks, Giulia. Yeah, for this first recommendation, we're really going to dial into that data point there on exhaustion and burnout, and make another callout to the industry to renew our efforts to focus in and see what we can do to take steps to tackle burnout and exhaustion, and importantly, some of the drivers beneath that, like heavy workloads and chronically high stress levels. I want to take a quick pause to call out an important component of a holistic definition of burnout. That being – and this is coming from the World Health Organization – that it is exhaustion as a result of workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. I think that's really important. I think we all appreciate that some level of stress is important to having a meaningful and challenging life, but that the level of support within an organization needs to rise up to the level of challenge. Otherwise, we'll have workers who experience things like exhaustion and negativity towards work, and of course, things like lowered performance. Here's where we want to call attention, again, to one of these key statistics to come out of our research, which is that once again this year we're seeing that over half of professionals have reported that they experienced exhaustion or burnout this year. That's what this donut chart on the left is showing us in the pink, is that 55% figure. And that of this group, seven in ten, 70%, are not taking time off when they were experiencing exhaustion or burnout. And it's really important for us to call out here that the top reason why people aren't taking time off is that they have too much work going on to feel that they can take time off. So it puts us in challenging situations, where these heavy workloads lead workers on paths to exhaustion, and then also make it very difficult or impossible at times to recover in the moment, because of those heavy workloads as well. Next slide, please. Thank you. One of the core questions we asked insights professionals was how often are they experiencing each of these things laid out here in the chart at their jobs. What you're looking at here compared year over year, is the net of people saying that they experience these often or all the time. This is where we want to call out things like tight deadlines, and pressure, and heavy workloads, where one in two professionals are still saying they experience these quite regularly. And as you can see across the chart, there's really no change here year over year, even some slight upticks in some of these areas. Why that frequency of those things happening really matters is that here we see things like deadlines and workload are the top drivers of stress for insights professionals. We probably wouldn't expect some of these top drivers, things that cause stress, to change much year over year. You can see that it's somewhat unchanged. There are some shifts up, noted in the pink, year over year. But when the underlying drivers of stress will probably not change too much, because these are very just human experiences, it's really important for us, the industry, then, to focus on the frequency with which individuals experience these things, and making sure that they are not chronic. Because then we know that is what could be driving chronically high stress levels. So we've put together for each of our recommendations a few thought starters, each of which I'm sure there is plenty more to be said about. But just to kick the conversation off, and I imagine we'll touch more on in the panel, some ideas for what we might do to improve workloads and take on burnout. Things like communication, proactive monitoring by managers. So, so, critical to facilitate that dialogue. Also, thinking at the start of projects, how can we plan more effectively to avoid deadline-related stress later on into the project, which is something a lot of researchers call out as a major stressor, and also something we know that insights professionals experience quite regularly. And then of course, when deadlines can't be moved, and in difficult periods where there needs to be some level of intervention, it can be really important for managers to help guide members of their team, or discuss as a team what to prioritize and how they might also spread that workload across more members, to help people when workloads are particularly intense.

Giulia Prati: All right. So diving into our next recommendation. This one really hinges on the role that managers and leaders in organizations can play in improving well-being by example. As you'll see, our data reveals that many insights professionals still don't feel they can be fully open and honest about mental well-being in the workplace. And managers and leaders within organizations can start to chip away at some of this residual stigma that we're all combating, by being open about their own challenges, and demonstrating mentally healthy work habits. Personally, just to put this out there, as a manager I think I've succeeded in some of these areas more than others. But as we head towards the new year, I think it's great to – a great time to revisit some of these intentions as we lead the team into 2023. First off, as you see here, we asked insights professionals about their comfort discussing mental health at work. The data reveals that managers are often that first port of call. So as you can see in the green, people feel more comfortable. 60 percent, almost, feel they can talk to their manager openly about mental health and well-being at work compared to a lower 43 percent, who feel they can talk to their colleagues openly about it. So we do still see a significant share reporting that they're not comfortable talking to their manager openly about their mental health and well-being in the gray, so that 22 percent, or with their wider array of colleagues, that 30 percent. So what we took this to mean is, really, is managers are really the first line in noticing changes and supporting their direct reports. This points to the importance of organizations training leaders, managers, and, really all employees on how to have these difficult conversations and create a supportive workplace around these issues. And what's really fascinating, I think, is that those who say that they have taken time off to take care of their mental health overwhelmingly report that it improved the quality of their work upon return, so that 73 percent. And that they return to work feeling much better at 60 percent. So those self-reported performance and mental health improvements are really notable. But, even so, many still feel guilty for taking that time off for mental health specifically and pressured to come back to work before they're ready in the lower half of this chart. So, to help reduce that remaining stigma, leaders can really think of things like discussing mental health, their own challenges that they've had. Practice self-care, such as taking time off or breaks throughout the day, and communicate actively to their employees that they're doing this, to really encourage their teams to do the same, and let them know that it's OK to do so. And on the following slide, really, again, highlighting that remaining stigma and fear of being open about mental health in the workplace. We see that 61 percent of researchers who did take time off for mental health reasons actually were not honest with their employers about why and offered a reason other than the truth that they were taking time off for mental health. So, I think, again, this really points to leaders being able to play a bigger role in sharing how they're taking care of themselves, to let their employees know that it's OK to do so themselves. And we've brought up this powerful quote from one of our respondent's last year, actually. We brought it back because we felt it really perfectly encapsulated some of what we were seeing in the data this year. So this idea that, as we saw upfront many of us in Insights, our organizations have brought in new programs, services, new tactics to help our employees year over year, which is fantastic. But we really also need to model that change in culture as leaders. And that needs to be sort of consistently modeled by our senior leaders in order to cause that shift across the organization so people feel they can take advantage of all of those new programs and services that are being offered. So, to recap, what can we – What can we do? We think as leaders but really everyone, to model the behavior of taking breaks during the day and using vacation time that is available to us. We know from the data that one in four researchers, that they're – That not having time to take a proper lunch break, for instance, caused them stress this year. So being able to demonstrate as leaders that we are doing that for ourselves can help others as well to take that time for themselves. And then stepping forward, which I think I've tried to do to some degree, we can all do more of to destigmatize the conversation around mental health, but sharing when we're struggling as leaders can also help open up that conversation. And finally, encouraging time for focused work. This is something we've trialed on our teams at Opinium, but the idea of perhaps as we've done for this call, maybe silencing notifications so that we can really have a period of focus time for things that are really high priority, to provide employees relief from some of the stress of being constantly interrupted, for instance. Of course, you can't always be on do not disturb, but when trying to really power through some work, that's something that we're – we've been testing out and has been really effective to have folks reach the end of the day feeling fulfilled in the work that they have been able to do. And with that, I'll hand it over again to Harley.

Harley McKee: Thank you. Our final core recommendation from the research here is really to emphasize the importance of internal surveys, specifically in this case, we're touching on pulse surveys for each organization to do, digging themselves to understand what are the specific well-being needs of their organization, as well as what groups may still need support that aren't currently getting it. On this slide, we've got some important data points to call out the – from our research, what's showing that there are still large shares of the insight professional population who do not feel that they are getting enough support at work. Here, looking on the left side of this slide, the 30 percent feel their workplace not doing enough to help employees with mental health and well-being. And, then, similar shares also not knowing who they're gonna turn to if they're struggling or how even to approach the topic, in such that well-being pulse surveys can be a great way to connect with those groups that may not know where to go otherwise, and allow them to voice their experiences and have their perspectives heard. And then very importantly on the right, we want to call out some differences that arose in our research between professionals who identify as white alone and then those who are Black, Asian, Hispanic, multi-racial, or from other minoritized racial groups. And what we want to call out here looking at the blue bar is that those historically underrepresented groups are certainly less likely to feel that they would be supported if they were struggling at work and that they are certainly less likely to feel that their workplace takes mental health and well-being seriously. And then, looking at the bottom two clusters of bars, that they are more likely to not know how they would approach the topic if they were struggling with their mental health or who that they would turn to, looking at that last bar. That's a really significant difference there, 23 percent compared to 48 percent unsure. So it's just to point out that these surveys are important for identifying these groups and figuring out perhaps what specific needs they have and how companies can take steps to address them. Here, we found a pretty interesting takeaway from the research that points to that all companies need – should be out there practicing collecting feedback from employees regularly. And that's that if we look at this chart, which is broken out by company size, on the left here, we have a statement that is showing that of course, as we might expect, larger companies are more likely to have introduced initiatives. That's nearly 70 percent at large employers saying that their companies has introduced initiatives for mental health and well-being, but that those employees are also more likely to say that their workplace isn't doing enough to support workplace well-being. So I think this is a really interesting finding to just call out that it's not enough to just offer programs or throw money at the issue and then hope for the best. It really takes internal digging and understanding the specific needs of your employees to best serve them and getting that feedback. And here, we really want to make the point with a question that we ask professionals about societal issues, that well-being is certainly a complex issue with many factors influencing what workers show up to work with and the mental health that they show up with. And, in this case, these were societal issues that when we asked in September, October, to what extent are Insights professionals worrying about these. And it's less to call out those specific issues here, things like fake news, and then inflation, of course, certainly salient, and more to point if we just look at these blue bars, these are large shares of the total Insight professional population who are worrying, at least sometimes, and in many cases, a lot. And we just pulled out the top six or so in terms of worry. There are plenty of other issues. And so it's important for employers to do their best they can to paint a – and teams, to paint a holistic picture of well-being and understand what is influencing well-being. Next slide, please. Thank you. Which I think leads right into this first recommendation here. Thought starter is that it is quite important for well-being teams, those who are able to measure across multiple dimensions of well-being, things like company support, managerial support for well-being, and then also to collect valuable feedback on existing and proposed initiatives. And just using a couple questions for each of these dimensions and that being important leading into that second recommendation that, of course, as we all know in this profession, the shorter we can keep the surveys, the more likely we will be to have strong engagement and get a representative sample, or at least enough responses. I know some companies are certainly on the smaller side, and it's still great to collect that feedback if possible, but to keep them punchy. And then lastly, that it is just critical that, where possible, following up on results that are collected with communications and showing employees that we have indeed listened to your feedback and we are going to take steps to address the specific concerns we've – that you have shared with us. That's really important.

Giulia Prati: So, closing us out, I think the data really does reveal that we've made important progress year over year as an industry in prioritizing mental well-being. But the road is long and there is more work to be done. Our employees still face quite a few challenges in this regard. We hope that this presentation has kind of inspired you to continue the conversation within your teams. And as we said at the top, it's a journey. But it's been exciting to see the progress we've made as an industry so far and excited to see where we take it next year. With that, if you have any questions, please do put them in the Q&A box. And I'll hand it over to Mike at Sklar Wilton.

Mike Armson: Thanks very much, Giulia. And thanks to you and Harley for a great presentation and some really valuable insights we can take away. So, hi, everyone. My name's Mike Armson. I'm a researcher at Sklar Wilton & Associates. We're a business consulting firm in Toronto. And I'm here today to talk about Headway, which is our mental health movement. So Headway was inspired by our late founder, Luke Sklar, who unfortunately suffered from severe clinical depression and he died by suicide in 2018. A year later, we launched Headway in May of 2019. And Headway is our movement for healthy minds at work. And so, it has some internal initiatives, so the mental health of our own employees is always important and also some external research where we're trying to help business leaders learn about and prioritize mental health as well. So I'll talk about each of those briefly. So starting us over our internal initiatives, I know our group has spoken at this event previous year. So I wanted to share some of our new initiatives, some things we've introduced over the last year. So these are just kind of our top three, let's say, best practices introduced more recently. So starting with monthly in-person days. So we're still a company that mainly works from home, but once it was safe to do so in terms of the pandemic restrictions, we really did want to see each other in-person again. So we have – we meet – get together once a month, which we do have a business agenda, but a lot of that is just about kind of connecting and keeping those connections alive, which I think is really important. And we also have a summer retreat, and also we just added more recently a winter retreat. So just some other chances for connection. And, then in terms of Harley and Giulia talked a lot about taking breaks, which is something we've found is really important. So we offer true – what we call true flexible hours. Which basically means you don't have to work nine to five. Our hours aren't actually even tracked on a daily or weekly basis. It's basically per year, per employee. So that just allows for – I know some people feel like even if you kind of take a break during the day, you feel like you always have to kind of make it up in the evening. It just kind of allows for some of those natural ebbs and flows of busier periods and then able to take a break when things are a little lighter. And then we also offer open vacation, just meaning you can take the vacation you need as long as you're getting your work done. That is tracked, but just really to encourage people to take vacation. And then the last thing, Harley and Giulia talked about pulse surveys. We did offer those during the pandemic, but now we've moved to a three times a year engagement survey, which for us is just a little bit more detailed. And we found a way to do it kind of light touch and get those details. But certainly, a pulse survey is a great way to keep track of how your employees are doing. So, if we move to the next slide. So, now, just to talk quickly about how we help business leaders more broadly. So, first of all, we just help leaders get started. I know the world of kind of mental health resources can be overwhelming to navigate. So we have a resource road map where we've taken different links and resources and organized them in a way that's a bit more user friendly and approachable. So we have consultations with clients and we kind of use the resource road map to customize a mental health plan that fits their business. And one thing I wanted to mention here, it's really important to get the buy in of senior leaders, not only to set an example, but just you really have to have that buy in from the top down. And in some cases that means making a business case for the value of mental health. Something else we do is talking about some of our best practices. So we do share our best practices. We have special interest sessions where we present some of these to clients. And then we also have a mental health blog where we share some of our best practices as well. And then not only do we want to share our own best practices, but we love keeping in touch with Headway members and hearing about how their mental health journey is going and some of their successes and challenges. And then, we can share some of their stories and best practices as well so that just more voices are being heard. And we do that through blogs and social media. So just on the last slide, here's just a few of the clients we've worked with. Some of these were already our consulting clients, like Church and Dwight and WW, as well as some research partners, such as Dig Insights. And so I realize what I didn't include in the slides was our contact info, so I'll throw that into the chat. And yeah, happy to answer any questions during the panel discussion and looking forward to that conversation. Thank you.

Melanie Courtright: Great. Thank you so much. So we're gonna stop sharing and just let you see these beautiful faces. And, so, let me just remind you that we have Vashti from Big Village and Pam from Rare Patient Voice. And Dr. Jennifer Card from EQ@HQ joining us, as well as the rest of the speakers. So let me just start with a question for Vashti. Which of these standings stand out to you the most as you think about your experience as an HR leader in your organization?

Vashti Chatman: Yes. Hello, everyone. And, Melanie, thank you for inviting me to participate in the panel today. The data was fascinating to read. First off, I'm impressed and I love that there was more people who participated this year and that more and more folks are talking about this. I love it. That's good to see. What struck me the most is – What really stood out is I thought about we made significant strides on awareness and education and having the conversation and talking about mental health, which is great. But it stood out to me that we still have much more to do and to accomplish to convert that conversation and the awareness into solutions that make people feel safe, that equip them with tools to self-manage their own mental health, and even how to discern when things are out of their control and know where to go for help and feel comfortable to do that. Especially when you got through the slide that talked about the non-white community. And so this really stuck out to me because I feel like I had the same takeaway after having discussions for two years straight about DE&I, diversity and inclusion. Lots of great awareness and education, but we still have a challenge to turn that talk into the actual solutions and really make people feel safe. So I think this left me with a good question for my own team. Are we doing the right things internally at Big Village in how we're exploring different ways to engage our employees in the solution, how we monitor and track, and the tools that we're implementing? Because we're doing a lot of things as we create the awareness. And then, how are we checking in on the BIPOC community and tracking that internally as well? So those are things that stuck out to me.

Melanie Courtright: Thanks. Jennifer, what about you? You're on mute.

Dr. Jennifer Card: There we go. Sorry about that.

Melanie Courtright: No worries.

Dr. Jennifer Card: Yes. Yeah. I mean, I think it was great that they – The looking at all this data, because a lot of it reflected the things that I'm seeing in my practice. I think what really jumped out at me is the fact that, first of all, on a positive note, that the needle is least moving in the right direction in terms of the conversations. I think the pandemic really helped to humanize organizations just that much more. We realized we're made up of people and we have to take care of our greatest assets. And when people  are thriving, so are organizations. But I'm also seeing, and the data reflected this, that the workload continues. The demands continue to the point that people are afraid or not wanting to take holidays for fear of probably the workload that they're gonna have to come back to. And I think you also mentioned in your presentation this idea of lunch breaks are a gone thing. They just don't exist anymore. And this is probably part and parcel to having these hybrid workplace stations where you're at home and you're like, "Well, I just grabbed a lunch and I'm back at my desk." But our brains actually need to take a break and we need to rest. And whether that's a quick walk around the block. So I think that there's a bit of irony in that, that people actually are too busy to take a holiday. So that jumped out. And one of the things that, lastly, just in the presentation that I thought was great, and I'm seeing this in my practice as well, is the need to increase our focused time for work. Because what I'm seeing with leaders across the board is that it's meeting to meeting to meeting. And they're actually having to do their work after work in the evening. And I think it's time that we sort of say, "Hey. Wait a second. Are these meetings really necessary that I'm participating?" And we need to aerate those calendars a little bit more to offer that think space.

Melanie Courtright: I love that because there's one question here in the chat that says, "What can smaller companies even do?" One of the big things I always talk about is just meeting management. The meetings can be such a burden on a company and really affect their ability to get work done during normal hours, so thanks for saying that. Pam, what about you? What are you seeing in regards to how people at work are talking about or dealing with mental wellness?

Pam Cusick: So I think it's – has been mentioned already, it is something that we're more comfortable talking about, maybe not completely comfortable. But being with the pandemic and understanding people's mental health impacts of being stuck at home or whatever it was really kind of opened up the door to that conversation. And I think for our business, what we've done is we added a telehealth program that actually has a mental health component. And it's paid for by the company. And it's really neat because it actually allows you to connect with them directly. And you get five or so sessions and they don't have to pay for it. And we talk about it as a really great benefit that people should take advantage of. I think the other thing is we work with patients and connect them with research. And we've seen in the past couple years a lot of mental health focused studies. In fact, the biggest we have is – Or a number of indications is in depression. So a lot of people doing research in depression and for a variety of things, not just products coming to market, but services that can be offered. And probably in the last two years or so, we've done over 100 studies focused on some aspect of mental health, which is pretty amazing.

Melanie Courtright: That's great. So let's shift a little bit to bringing our whole selves to work, we – Giulia and Harley talked about societal issues. Are you seeing in your workplaces over the last couple of years that external issues are sort of coming into the workplace more often? People are bringing more with them as a result of the world going on around them? Maybe we can start with Vashti.

Vashti Chatman: Yeah. I would say this is interesting, because I do think that if we go back to 2020, we definitely were forced to put ourselves in a position where we have to start talking about dealing with the whole person. We're seeing more and more of things show up, even when people don't want to and they aren't comfortable. I mean, we saw first hand when you're on those Zoom calls, where we had folks who were getting news of loss in the middle of a meeting. So it absolutely is – And I think what I'm seeing even more is the pressures that's happening for the manager to have to add that extra special hat and the more that they're dealing with because of the issues that are happening outside of work even. And so, it's less about work life balance, and it's really about how do you integrate that? And how do we equip our managers with managing that because of the things that are going on around? And I think most companies are in some type of a hybrid state. Here at Big Village, we're almost fully remote. And so, we do have managers that it – That hasn't trickled off. They are still having to navigate somebody's child is running into a room or something is happening because they have a child that's sick at home. So I do think the pressures, the media, the economics, the politics, the fear of what hasn't happened is still there. And it is affecting how people are focused at work. And I do see how that is impacting the manager even more and more. And it's a greater burden. How do they navigate that?

Melanie Courtright: Jennifer, I think you might have had something you wanted to say here?

Dr. Jennifer Card: Yeah. I mean, I think – I'm not so much seeing distress with this particular area and topic. But I've definitely seen an increase sensitivity, which I think is a really fundamental conversation to increase. And that speaks also to the humanization of the organization and increasing self and other awareness and also our tolerances and our ability to work together as human beings in an organization. So, yeah. I think that's predominately what I'm seeing, is just that it's part of the conversation now, which has been a really incredible improvement.

Melanie Courtright: And while we have you with – unmuted, Jennifer, there is a question here too. Do you have a sense, and Giulia and Harley too, do you have a sense for how what we're doing in Insights compares to the rest of the world and our – what's our sort of major strength and major weakness or how are we comparing?

Dr. Jennifer Card: Yeah. I think the collection of data and doing the pulse reads is just such an important component to actually take that feedback and really get a read on, objective read on what's going out – on out there. And so I think that that's definitely – And same with, I know Mike's organization does the same thing, which has been really important. And I was part of finding the Canadian Workplace Well-Being Awards. And what we did – And the purpose of that was to actually look at organizations across Canada, celebrate what they're doing, and compare kind of – And what I'm seeing that's very similar is you're really looking at the whole person. You're getting down to sort of the grassroots of what's really going on, not these sort of big, sort of green washing programs, if you will, that don't touch the people at the human level. So I think these practical and tactical takeaways is – Has been a really great value add.

Melanie Courtright: Giulia.

Giulia Prati: I think, yeah, jumping in on our side, I know we do have sort of a database of just employees across the U.S. that we've compared the data to. And we have seen, for instance, those levels of self-reported exhaustion or burnout being well above the U.S. benchmark for insights professionals, for instance. So, and I believe couple of years ago when we did the first piece of research and, perhaps, last year as well, that the levels were higher for kind of some of the struggles are higher in insights than across just general. But that's comparing across, really, folks in all sorts of different types of work. So I would be interested to compare, for example, folks in consulting or banking and where do we sit in the realm of different careers? I'm sure that we're – There's other professions that are also kind of very high stress, perhaps more high stress. But I – Yeah. I would be curious to do a bit more digging there, though I think just relative to the average, we do seem to be slightly more stressed out. I think we're a conscientious bunch. I think it comes with the territory, perhaps, to some degree. But it is, there's a lot of pressure in what we do, so.

Melanie Courtright: So what could we do about it, right? Workload and stress management, what tools are people using? What are people doing to sort of balance this? And I like this one question even, our – We see emerging some DE&I leads within organizations, what about mental well being leads? What about big and small, medium companies doing specifically? Does anybody have any recommendations for things that companies can do differently or add or subtract to help with this workload and stress level in their organization?

Mike Armson: I can speak to that a bit. So, I mean, our company is smaller, but one thing I heard, actually, at a mental health conference I went to is – That a larger company was doing was kind of mental health champions on each team. And I like that approach a lot because just means that, obviously, there's different needs depending on the team. So it's nice to have someone who's kind of close to those needs. So that's one idea for a larger organization that I really, really liked. Yeah. I mean, I talked a little bit about some of our policies around taking breaks. I guess, just to add to that, I think it's – Yeah. It's just really important. I mean, you can have the policy around flexibility, but just that those are truly encouraged and not managers and leaders are sometimes just saying, "Don't worry about working on this after hours." Things like that, that can go a long way. And even for us, I know last year we had the front half of our year was a bit lighter, and then we had to kind of make up for it. So I know our leadership has kind of listened to some comments in terms of some burnout and things around that. And, now, we're just kind of conscious of, as much as possible, trying to keep things a little steadier through the year. So just something that the senior leaders are keeping an eye on, which is nice. You're on mute, Melanie.

Melanie Courtright: Mike, before you go – And I think Jennifer was gonna say something. I want to ask you this question in the chat because of your – Of the story about how the Headway program was started. What should people do if they're worried about their leaders, if they're worried about their manager? Have you guys had any of those conversations about what people should do if they're worried that their CEO or their manager might be struggling?

Mike Armson: Yeah. That's a good question. I know that, usually, most of ours is kind of geared by as kind of the manager, the more senior person is listening or doing the advising. But, yeah, it's a great question. I mean, I guess, just we do have – We give kind of the training, mental health training, to the full team. So, I guess, the idea is that, if you're seeing those signs even in someone at the top of the organization, hopefully you would start the conversation. But, yeah. It's probably, in some ways, they might even be more vulnerable. So, yeah. That's a great comment.

Melanie Courtright: I can say as a CEO that if someone in my team wanted – Was worried about me, I really would hope that they would put a meeting on my calendar and say, "I came to talk about you. I'm worried about you. How are you doing? Is there anything I can do? Is there anything the organization's not doing to support you?" I would hope they would. And, then, say, "Hey. I see you working too late at night and too early in the morning and it's not setting a good example. And you're probably not taking care of yourself." I would want them to have that conversation with me. Vashti, you're in a – You're in a high level role, and so are you, Pam. What do you think?

Pam Cusick: I think it's great when people do come to you and tell you, "You ought to take a day off or you're taking on too many things." Because, when you are a leader, you do that. And that is – And I can – You can justify that to yourself, or I do, like, "Well, I just have a lot to do. There's a lot going on. I don't want to dump this on people." But it's a really bad example for everyone else. Yes. I get a lot done, but am I getting it done at midnight? And, then, do they think they have to get it done at midnight? So I do have team members who, fortunately, I think it has a lot to do with how open you are with your teams and you want to invite them to provide you with that input. And, fortunately, I have people who will say, "You probably should take a day off." So it's a good thing.

Melanie Courtright: Yeah.

Vashti Chatman: Yeah. I agree, Pam. It's I have an amazing relationship with everybody on my team. And it's funny, last week I actually had two of them that did reach out and just said, "Hey. How are you doing?" So I thought it was wonderful. And it just was a good sign to me that we have created this culture. We've been very intentional about instilling programs like resilience and how to have empathy conversations. And we've made that a part of our talent development and career development. We've embedded that into our training. And we really do try to put forth tools and question documents and guides on how to start and spark a conversation with people when it's uncomfortable and it's a tough conversation, to really make a deeper connection, to check in, that focuses on your well being. And, so, it was great for me to get those two pings. And it was reminder that, uh-oh, I'm not being the model that I should be. So, thank you for that, and let me go back to where taking care of myself first. So I think it's awesome. And I would encourage more leaders to create those tools and open up that dialogue.

Melanie Courtright: And then, Vashti, while you're on this – And there's a question now in the chat, since we're talking about workload management. How do you bring clients into the conversation? A lot of the demands are coming from the clients. How do you bring them into the equation?

Vashti Chatman: Yeah. So I'm gonna apologize now. I don't know that my answer is as groundbreaking as many would hope. But I would say, first, it's just recognize that your clients are humans too. They're people. And they have families. They have dogs. They have friends. And they have things that happen in their lives too. And they've been going along on this journey and they have the same societal worries and issues that we all have. And, so, we talk a lot about client centricity in Big Village. The client is definitely the core. It's the center of what we do. It drives all of our decision making. But our clients are actually an extension of our team. And, so, we share values. We share common goals. And we even bring them in to the problem solving and being a part of the solution. And I think we embed ourselves in their business and, sometimes, we forget that it's okay to be open with them and pull them in. And I just really think, once you open up that dialogue and you understand that your client is human and they're a part of it and you make them a part of that and embed them into the supply of culture, then I think you'll see that they will be okay in helping you manage. And you can push back. And you can push back in a very effective way. Don Simons, who is the CEO of Insights of North America here, he did something really amazing and great. And I think he invites our clients into our town halls. Whenever we do some of our culture events, he invites the client in. And part of – It's a requirement, really, with all the project teams to make sure that they're part of our planning and analytical phase part. So I really think it's just they're human. Recognize that and bring them in and treat them as an extension of your team.

Giulia Prati: I have a quick thought on this one. This one, Pam, where – Sorry. Melanie. Where we've been trying to on our team, I've been trying to as well and encourage the rest of our team to, there's an instinct to immediately respond to a client and say, "Yes. We'll get this right back to you today." And we all want – Have this urge and instinct to do that because we want to please and we are client centric. But, I think, sometimes we can get ourselves into trouble. So part of that is really asking the client, "When are you going to use this?" Understanding, do they need a response today or is this for a meeting they have in two weeks? In which case, we can build some time to actually address their question or follow-up a little more thoughtfully, for instance, and build it into everything else we have going on. So I've been trying to encourage – Remind myself and encourage the team to take a pause, take a breath before we go back. And I still catch myself doing this all the time, even for internal requests. But something I'm working on.

Melanie Courtright: Yeah. I love that. Maybe we should even start to try to build into our client's processes, if they could be so kind to, just in their email request, tell us when they need something so we don't even have to send that follow-up. Just say, do – "I need it today. I need it this week. I need it next week." That would be very helpful too. Jennifer?

Vashti Chatman: I've got some great training and templates on this. If anybody needs them, reach out. I'll be happy to share.

Melanie Courtright: Send them to us. We'll make them available. Thank you.

Vashti Chatman: Absolutely.

Dr. Jennifer Card: I'll jump in on this topic too because I think there's a sense of rushing right now. And one of the things that I'm always challenging my clients with is make sure that that boundaries are real, I mean, a time bound is real. Question whether that really needs to get done at this time so that you can slow down in order to speed up. And I think, during the pandemic when we were just kind of focused on our work, I think we were channeling some of our anxieties because we're like, "As long as I'm still outputting, everything's still okay." And, now, that we're even going back into the office, they're like, "Well, I wasn't very productive today because I was talking to so-and-so." And I'm like, "Well, those are important inputs that are really valuable for the psychological safety of your team, so don't discard those as time well spent." And the other point that I just wanted to go back to as we're talking about leaders and also speaking with – Was Vashti was speaking about the clients is this idea that stress is contagious, whether that's to your clients or you as a leader to your organization, research shows that it's contagious. And I like to say that the positive is is that well being is contagious as well. So focusing in on developing those skill sets, because I think as leaders and when speaking with leaders, is that everyone knows how to take care of themselves physically, whether we do it or not, that's up to us. But we have the tools. We know what it is. We know the story. But psychological self-care is a little bit different. And I think gaining those proactive activities, having them in your back pocket, putting them as a hygiene each day, just as we do to take care of selves physically is equally as important to maintain that sense of well being.

Melanie Courtright:  Pam, you're up.

Pam Cusick: I'm up. No, what I was just going to say is I think it all has to do with communication. It's where every problem starts, it's where everything gets good too.

Melanie Courtright: We're back.

Pam Cusick: Exactly. We are open with our clients about if they wanted something over a weekend, we don't have people working on the weekends. And even if they think it's super – it's really important to them, if we have explained it well enough, they're OK with it. And I think that that's – Sometimes I think we have – in the past been afraid to – we'll lose the client, we'll let them down. But as Vashti was saying, it's the – they're human, and they have the same – they don't want to work on the weekend. So when they realize that, it's – you just have to have that dialogue and be open and be candid with them about what you can and can't do and when.

Melanie Courtright: So I'm going to ask you guys your follow-up question, but for you guys that are listening, at the end of this sort of final panel-y question, I'm going to see if they can stay a few minutes extra and answer a couple of these specific questions that are in the chat. Just go maybe five minutes over. But to wrap up the formal part, I'd just like to ask you each if there's one thing, and be as succinct and quick as possible. If there's one thing you really want people to take away from today, and from this time together. What would that be? And Harley, you haven't gotten to speak in a while, you want to speak to this?

Harley McKee: Yeah, sure thing, thanks, I'll be quick – and just say I think whatever you can do to make some of these things, like check-ins, a habit, whether that's scheduling it on calendars, or creating reminders to yourself. It's hard to know when people are struggling, and as Pam said communication is key. So making that a habit is how the culture is built, it doesn't need to be a huge, huge action all the time.

Melanie Courtright: That's great, Giulia.

Giulia Prati: On my end, I think it's really – what really stood out to me is that importance of leading by example, which I know I'm not perfect at – and need to keep working on. So that's something I'm definitely taking into the new year as Dr. Card was saying, that part of it is contagious, and so you got to take care of yourself first, before you can try and take care of the rest of the team as well.

Melanie Courtright: Yeah, I'm going to take that with me for sure, stress is contagious. Mike?

Mike Armson: Sure, yeah so I'll keep mine simple. Mine is just have the conversation. So just talk about mental health at work, and I think silence is really what creates the stigma, so you can break it by just speaking up and being open about it. And as we've talked about, that really starts from the leadership down, so that resonated for me.

Melanie Courtright: Great and then we'll do Vashti, Pam, Jennifer. Vashti?

Vashti Chatman: Yes, so I would say – the biggest takeaway or thing I would say would be, much of how we feel is related to how we think. So I'm a big believer in the positive intelligence philosophy, and we all have the power to be well. And so I think this is something as leaders particularly we should model, and we owe it to ourselves to prioritize our own health, and show our people that we're prioritizing our own health and really strengthening our mental fitness because when we do that, the like challenges, the uncertainty, the client demands, and all of these things that we face, they start to feel really small. Because you we all know that we have the power to manage that, or at least to discern when it's beyond, and we need some help. And so that's the biggest takeaway, is that how you feel it's really about how you think about it.

Melanie Courtright: Great, thank you.

Pam Cusick: I'm going to go with Julia on this, leading by example, that was a huge, a huge thing, out of the research. And I think that – leader's aren't superheroes, and we're just human like everybody else, and we have to be vulnerable and share that, if we're having a challenge, because then that will help those around us to do the same thing. And I love that it came out in that research.

Melanie Courtright: Great, and then Jennifer.

Dr. Jennifer Card: Yeah, I guess that, this idea that burnout doesn't happen overnight, and keeping that awareness up, and self care also doesn't happen overnight. Like a quick trip to the spa is probably not going to erase the year of stress, so these little micro habits each day, not that the spa's wrong, but these little micro habits each day are just super important. Just like we take care of our physical bodies.

Melanie Courtright: Yes, I love that. I actually have a – I added a an elliptical to my office. And when I make myself get up, just even if I'm only for five minutes, stretching and breathing, it's like every day doing that is better than, once every six months, when I'm about to break getting a massage. So alright, well so thank you all – and don't go anywhere yet. So let's answer some of these questions as best we can, first it looks Giulia like you might be willing to answer this first one and maybe others too. But we've said let's do a poll survey, does anyone know of any templates that might be available for people for internal poll surveys?

Giulia Prati: Yes, I meant to type an answer, but volunteered to answer live, which I will happily do. So we rely on, and I thought I would share our methodology that we use for our internal poll surveys, this survey with the IA, it's built upon The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale. And they offer a framework that allows you to create a metric, to kind of track mental well being an aggregate overall, although then we've also customized and added a bunch of questions etc. And also just to say that it is something that we help our clients do all the time. So we are happy to kind of get in touch, and share the type of questions that we asked internally and help you think through what you might ask your team.

Melanie Courtright: Great and this, as many of you know the Insights Association has a business impact toolkit, and a DENI toolkit. And what I think we will do, is put together a team, to put together a mental well being toolkit for our members. And we can put some of the things that Vashti's has talked about, as well as maybe some polls surveys. We'll put together a team, and we'll start working on that in the new year, and definitely get some contributions from the people you see in front of you. Andrew has asked, do you have insights from openings about why type questions to these – to understand what's behind the findings, differences in agreement, or whether or not they experienced their employer is supporting. Like, do you have some of the whys behind this, and is there some way that you could follow up with Giulia and Harley?

Harley McKee: Yeah, that's a great point, and I think something that we want to re-emphasize doing again in next year's audit. We were, we did not have open ends in this year survey, and that is obviously a great way to get more specific insight into these issues, and hear more about the why. So great calling that out, and it's definitely very much on our radar for next year.

Melanie Courtright: Thank you, Monica asked, do when we look at the, and compare the workplace by where they work. So in office, hybrid or remote, do we have anything in the survey right now about that, or do we have perceptions of how mental well being might be different, based on how are where they're working? Not yet, maybe we don't know where they're working in this one, do we?

Harley McKee: And I think overwhelmingly, the vast majority are saying that they're hybrid working. And so I think part of it was also insufficient base size to open those who are particularly just working at an office, or what have you, and there were no significant differences to call out, but great question.

Melanie Courtright: Someone anonymous asked, what we're doing with this information outside of MRX. And so I'll just say that – we'll be taking this information, we're going to provide a full report – we're going to create some snappy infographic styles to do a social media campaign. But we can also take this information, and make it part of a toolkit for you to share in other venues. We have, we can put together a visibility plan for the data sets, it's really helpful for people to know how we're doing. We talked a little bit about redistributing work, somebody asked what small companies could do, and I just wanted to make the statement that Insights Association is small. But we have a PEO, so if you do not use a PEO, or if you do use a PEO, you might consider looking at their programs. A PEO is a essentially their employer contract, and so they do our payroll, but they also have a formal EAP. And so while we're only 12 people, I'm able to extend a formal employee assistance program to my team, through our PEO. If you have a PEO they likely have something. And you could make sure that they are – your employees are aware of that, you could also sort of – create these – the culture of being able to talk about these free things, a culture of being able to talk about mental wellness, leading by example – but specifically around programs PEO. Anybody else have any ideas for smaller companies? If not, I can we can move on.

Vashti Chatman: MINES & Associates, I think it's an amazing, highly robust, surprisingly robust EAP program, that has all the bells and whistles and then some, it even has a specialized program for managers to help them through. And it's quite economical for small businesses, and you can set up standalone. So I would definitely check MINES & Associates out, I mean, it's so robust it's impressive, and I can put their website into the chat for those that want to check it out.

Melanie Courtright: Perfect because the chat can end up being a part of the deliverable.

Vashti Chatman: Oh, yeah absolutely.

Melanie Courtright: Thank you, anyone else now? I just want to sort of call out this, an anonymous attendee wrote about her experiences as an African American woman raising a biracial son. And, being in the ER all night, and feeling like she couldn't take the time off today, because she's had to take – because she's on a PIP earlier. Like, my heart just really goes out to you, you know I don't I don't have an answer for you on this call, other than to tell you – there are other people just like you, that are experiencing that same thing. And you matter, and your son matters, and maybe Dr. Card wants to say something as well, but I'm sorry that you're experiencing that. It's real, and it's legitimate, and I think we can all do better. And you know if you just need someone to talk to – I hope that you'll reach out to us and let us connect you with someone, but Jennifer, do you want to say something as well?

Dr. Jennifer Card: Yeah, I think you've covered that – that the fact is just reach out to talk to people. There's a thing called affect labeling, and the more that you actually talk about the emotion that you're experiencing, the less that it'll impact you internally. And stress is real, there are stressors out there, that are just our perception, but there are legitimate stressors out there – especially with children and things like that. So be sure to reach out to your support network, and lean into them, they're there to help you.

Melanie Courtright: Yes, there's quite a few more questions here, that we honestly don't have time for. But I'm going to try to get to them as a follow up to you – if you have something specific that you really want me to answer quickly, I hope you know that you can always email me Melanie at And you can even email me a specific question for someone here on the on the panel. Thank you all very much for being here. I don't want to add to anyone's stress by going over too much longer. So I want to respect your time. Thank you all very much. I am super grateful. This is an important topic. And don't be surprised when you hear from me as we start to work on our mental well being toolkit for our members. So thank you very much. Happy Friday to everyone. Happy holidays, Happy New Year. Happy however you celebrate. Thank you all very much and have a great weekend.

Giulia Prati: Thank you.

Vashti Chatman: Thank you. Many blessings. Bye everyone.